Anger after Archbishop’s comments on gay rights

Scottish gay rights charity, Equality Network has responded to a sermon given yesterday by the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti.

In the sermon he claimed that “tolerance” is turning into “tyranny” on the subject of gay marriage, accusing the political mainstream of “marginalizing” religious opinion.

The Archbishop claimed yesterday that the proposed introduction of gay marriage in Scotland is an attempt to “redefine marriage” according to “mores of the day” and is “putting the claim of ‘equality and diversity’ on a higher level than faith and reason”.

Archbishop Conti stated that creating equality between homosexual and heterosexual marriages is “contrary to the virtue of chastity” and as going against “natural law”.

The Catholic cleric went on to claim that society will “descend further into ethical confusion and moral disintegration” if the government continues to legislate on such issues.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, argued that legal equality should not be denied to gay people. “Archbishop Conti says the law is there to defend the rights of citizens, but he wants to deny those rights to people because they are gay. He says the law cannot redefine people and their rights, and yet the law has done that over and over.”

Referring to previous attempts by the law to discriminate against groups in society, Tim Hopkins stated, “In the past century the legal position of women has undergone a revolution, from non-persons without a vote, to legal equality. In the past 200 years, the legal position of Catholics in this country has similarly been redefined. It’s time that legal equality extended to LGBT people too.”

The gay rights campaigning group Stonewall has also weighed in on the controversy, stating that the Archbishop’s comments were disrespectful and intolerant. In a statement issued to ENN today, Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland said that Archbishop Conti’s use of terms like “ethical confusion” were “disappointing and wholly untrue” and that “the majority of Scots support the right of same sex couples to express their committed relationships through marriage. When there 1.2 billion people in the world living on less than a dollar a day, it’s a shame that the churches’ priorities are focused on preventing a few thousand people doing just that.”

These comments come after Cardinal Keith O’Brian, Scotland’s most senior Catholic wrote in The Telegraph earlier in the month comparing legalizing gay marriage to slavery.

Previously Archbishop Conti has gone on record as supporting the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. He has also voiced opposition against Civil Partnerships and IVF treatment and is a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Committee for Bio-Ethics.

The Equality Network is a registered charity promoting LGBT rights and has been operating in Scotland since 1997.

Equal Love: straight rights; gay rights; human rights

By Chris Melvin

The Equal Love movement is the latest campaign launched by experienced rights activist Peter Tatchell, aiming to redress the alleged discriminative legislation that causes imbalance and segregation – both legally and financially – between heterosexual and homosexual couples in regards to legal commitment.

Every week, one of eight couples will file their applications at their local registry office. Four straight couples will apply for a civil partnership, whilst four same-sex couples with apply for civil marriages. This began on November 2nd and will continue up until December 14th.

Tatchell has said: “If the couples are turned away, as we expect they will be, we plan to take legal action” – The bans on marriage and civil partnerships are violations of the Human Rights Act with respect to Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman

Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman

As predicted, the first couple – Rev. Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka Streitzel – were denied permission to have a civil marriage in Greenwich last week. Both are women of faith. Rev. Ferguson stated: “we live our whole lives in our faith. We don’t want a separate blessing and ceremony”.

Yesterday, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle helped the Equal Love movement by filing for a civil partnership at their local town hall in Islington, London. As expected, they were also refused the right to a civil partnership due to the couple being of mixed-sex.

Katherine explained that marriage “has typecast gender roles that are not part of our day to day relationship. We felt that civil partnership represented a more flexible idea of what a couple should be”. She later stated that, as the young couple only wish to be unified under a civil partnership, she and Tom “feel frustrated that [they] are excluded from the benefits of traditional marriage”.

She then commented on the refusal of her application: “it is a disappointing reminder that Britain – a country that prides itself on its progressiveness in equality and justice – is harbouring segregation at its heart. Britain has been overtaken by South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada on marriage equality, and needs to make a change to legislation soon”.

An "equal" ceremony

An "equal" ceremony

Following this comment, Marjolein Ligtvoet-Molmans and Edith Molmans-Ligtvoet, a same-sex Dutch couple married since 2003, compared the current legislation in the United Kingdom with that of Holland; the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

“We feel like civil partnerships are just a substitute so that gay couples have ‘at least got something’ instead of marriage. Straight couples should have the right to civil partnerships too, because everyone should have the right to choose for themselves – it should be equal for all couples, like it is in Holland.”

Marjolein highlighted the financial aspects, saying: “I specifically married my partner because we wanted to buy a house.  Since I already had children, my partner wouldn’t have had any rights to my money if I died leaving her basically on the streets”.

Once the eight couples are refused, the Equal Love campaign will use the results as evidence and turn to the courts. The legal case is being prepared by professor of human rights law at King’s College London, Robert Wintemute.

Colour purple worn for bullied suicides

By Claudie Qumsieh

Victims of homophobic bullying are being remembered today as hundreds of thousands of people wear purple in tribute. In the past month alone at least 10 teenagers have committed suicide in the U.S after bullying related to their sexual orientation.

These high-profile cases have led to a global movement started by gay journalist Dan Savage whose “It gets better” clip has been watched by almost a million people on You Tube.“When a gay teenager commits suicide, it’s because he can’t picture a life for himself that’s filled with joy and family and pleasure and is worth sticking around for[…] So I felt it was really important that, as gay adults, we show them that our lives are good and happy and healthy and that there’s a life worth sticking around for after high school” This project has resulted in hundreds of people (including celebrities) posting their own testimonies and stories of hope on the newly created online video channel “It Gets Better”.

Hillary Clinton joined the campaign today when she posted her video saying “These most recent deaths are a reminder that all Americans have to work harder to overcome bigotry and hatred. I have a message out there for all the young people who are being bullied, or who feel alone and find it hard to imagine a better future.  First of all, hang in there. And ask for help. Your life is so important — to your family, your friends, and to your country.” Clinton goes on to  speak about civil servants who work at the state department “It wasn’t long ago that these men and women would not have been able to serve openly, but today they can. Because it has gotten better. And it will get better for you”.  Although civil servants can be openly gay and keep their job, America’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is still causing controversy. DADT  means that gay military personnel must conceal their sexual orientation when serving otherwise they will be dismissed. A recent call to overrule this policy failed, however one judge has reopened the debate this week.

One supporter of the DADT policy, a Republican Tea Party candidate for US Senate Ken Buck compared homosexuality to alcoholism “I think that birth has an influence over [homosexuality] like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that, basically, you have a choice”.

The U.S case is not unusual. In Scotland young gay and bisexual men are 6.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. In an NHS Greater Glasgow survey “Something to tell you” 80% of gay young people said they have experienced discrimination. According to a Stonewall survey 68% of young Scottish lesbian, gay or bisexual people have been bullied at school, 21% of Scottish schools teach that homophobic bullying is wrong. In schools that say homophobic bullying is wrong, gay pupils are 60% less likely to be bullied.

Actor Sir Ian McKellan,Co-founder of Stonewall, is touring schools in the UK to promote tolerance. At a time when educating children about tolerance and difference is a priority, the Christian Institute unhelpfully published an article headlined McKellan “set to promote homosexuality in schools”. As Sir Ian says religionis the one area where people are not frightened to be openly homophobic”.

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